Having grown up in the Midwest, I was a proud card-carrying member of the meat and cheese-eaters club. With one side of my family being partially Polish, and the other side squeezing mashed potatoes through their veins, I was a bonsai meat and dairy guy of the first order for fifty-one years of my life.
However, it was around this time six months ago, that Sheryl and I decided to start eating Vegan. The intent was to try it and see if we could be better to ourselves and our bodies.
Honestly, I gave myself two weeks, and was ready to abandon ship at any point after that.
Now, six months later, what have I learned?
Well, the biggest thing I learned was that not eating dairy was the best thing I could have done for myself!
Oh sweet cheezus! I loved my cheese! But it only took a day or two for me to start feeling the benefit of not ingesting dairy. I felt clearer, as if someone took a squeegee and cleared my head from the inside – and my sinuses, which always gave me problems, felt amazing!
Before I stopped eating cheese and drinking milk – my sinuses would run like they were in a race! At night, my face would hurt from my sinuses plugging up. In fact, I began going to an acupuncturist, who stuck needles in my face for the sole reason of trying to get some relief.
The thing is, I didn’t know better. I didn’t realize that dairy did this to me. No one ever suggested to me that if I stopped eating cheese and using milk and butter, I might get some relief.
Did you ever get penicillin for a sore throat or something? The doc probably gave you enough meds for two weeks, but remember that one time when you thought you felt better after a couple of days and didn’t finish taking the meds? Remember how you got even sicker than when you started? Well, that was like me and cheese.
I’ll admit – it wasn’t long before I jumped off the Vegan wagon – after six weeks, I had to have my beloved Buffalo Chicken Dip, which I reserved for the first week of football. I love me some football, and I was gonna celebrate with a fat old pot of Buffalo Chicken Dip!… but oy vey, what a mistake! It didn’t take long at all for me to start feeling all sorts of crappy! I quickly started getting a headache, my sinuses plugged up, my lips got numb, and, to be totally honest, I felt as if someone injected chemotherapy into my body. It was horrible!
This was a turning point – I could have kept eating dairy, and hoped that my body would forget how good it once felt, or, I could give up the ghost. And that’s exactly what I did – I decided that it wasn’t worth it. The remainder of the Buffalo Chicken Dip went down the garbage disposal, and I choked down some aspirin, hoping I’d feel better in the morning.
I did, fortunately. But I haven’t forgotten that crappy feeling!
One thing that happens when you start eating Vegan, is that you start distrusting any food that someone else made for you. Did they put real butter in there? Is there milk in there? Did they use egg noodles?
Yes, I’m aware that it sounds picky and even snooty. However, one time, Sheryl and I got some take out Chinese food – the veggie lo mein, if I recall correctly. Well, the noodles weren’t Vegan friendly, which I realized when my lips started to get numb. Before long, my head hurt, and I was feeling awful.
So dairy is obviously not pleasant for me to go back to. But what about meat? I think at one point in my life, bacon grease was an aphrodisiac for me. I could have made an Olympic sport out of eating hamburgers!
When we started eating Vegan, Sheryl and I instantly began joking about getting Bojangles’ chicken, just to take the edge off. For some reason, we had been yearning for it. Well, a few weeks ago, we jumped off the no-fun, no-meat wagon, and got some Zaxby’s (aka “chicken ambrosia of the gods”!). We recognized beforehand that our discretion might cause severe distress to our digestive systems, so we played it safe, and didn’t go bonkers. We had a few chicken tenders each, and that was it.
The result? We felt fine. No GI issues or anything. However, it really didn’t scratch the itch. It wasn’t worth the hassle and guilt. I realized that the memory of eating meat was much more enjoyable than the actual act of eating meat. It was totally something we could do without. Yes, it’s true, over the course of six months, meat no longer has power over us.
“But maybe it was chicken,” you may say, “try some delicious beef or pork!” Well, to be fair, I did. One day, I had the urge to eat some sweet, sweet polish sausage. Sausage was a staple of mine in a previous life. But this time, the grease drove my belly to rumbling. Again, I didn’t eat enough to cause major problems., but I was in no way proud of myself, and in no way did I want to go back to regularly eating meat!
With that all said, you would think that we are happy, healthy tree-hugging eaters of the land. Well, I can honestly say “I wish!”. Just like any diet, we still find a way to eat too many processed foods, and not enough greenery and vegetables and fruit. We’re trying, though, and I think we’ve got a pretty good shot at improving our diets.
All said, we feel better. We feel clear, and much of our joint pain has subsided. We might have taken off a pound or two, but that was never the purpose for changing our diet.
Again, we simply wanted to be better to ourselves. Our poor bodies have been through a lot in 50 years, and we had decided that it was time to treat ourselves nicer. Eating Vegan can be a challenge, but I enjoy the challenge. I feel like it’s a pretty good bet that I won’t shrivel up as a result of not eating meat, dairy, fish, and eggs.
“But what about the cost?” You may ask. Well, it’s true that organic food costs more, but once we got over the hump of changing our pantry over to Vegan-friendly food, our grocery bills actually became LESS. In fact, I’d have to say that we save between $100 and $200 a month in groceries, simply because we don’t buy meat and dairy.
The beautiful thing about eating Vegan is that we can change our mind at any time. It’s like when I decided to quit drinking Diet Coke. I know that I can still drink it at any time, but generally choose not to (talk about joint pain, I can feel it when I drink “pop” more than once a week!).
Knowing that you’re not a slave to a particular diet is in itself very freeing. I would urge anyone who has joint pain, sinus issues, memory problems, and the like, to try going without meat, dairy, eggs, and fish for 3-4 days. See how it goes… you can always go back!